Maritimo CEO Bill Barry-Cotter has called on the Australian federal government to change laws that allow “grey imports" of boats. Barry-Cotter said the "dumping" of unregulated boats is responsible for 90 per cent of boat manufacturing job losses in the last three years on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Barry-Cotter told local media that the government has been more concerned about Ford laying off 1,800 workers in Victoria than the effect of its policies on the boating industry. He said boat manufacturers have shed 1,600 jobs over the last three years.

Barry-Cotter said grey imports and a high Australian dollar have made it tougher for domestic manufacturers to compete in their own country.

"We're getting boats from overseas that don't comply with any standards whatsoever and we're supposed to compete with them,” Barry-Cotter told goldcoast.com.au. "Now 1600 jobs have directly disappeared out of this precinct and no one has ever said boo. They talk about the jobs lost at Ford in Victoria but 90 per cent of our losses have been due to these grey imports.”

The marine industry has lobbied for a change in the import laws, but the government has so far refused to budge.

The Maritimo chief also said new emissions regulations and an upcoming carbon tax add to the build costs. The cost of engines used by Maritimo have risen from A$130,000 to A$200,000 a pair under existing rules. "I can't buy an engine in Australia unless it is compliant," Barry-Cotter said. With the new carbon tax in July, he expects the price of a boat to rise between 5 and 8 per cent.

Unless the government institutes changes, Barry-Cotter said, the boatbuilding industry will continue to suffer. "What we've got to do is restructure and get rid of the red tape,” he added.